ONE of the most important features in the decoration of the interior of dwelling-houses is undoubtedly the adorning of rooms by means of wall-paper. In this respect people do not always exhibit good taste. It is therefore proposed to make some suggestions in regard to the proper selection of colors. In the first place, it ought to be remembered that here can never be an opportunity for too much light in a room ; for if at any moment a moderate amount is desired, a ready means to effect that object is always at hand. In selecting paper-hangings for rooms, one should therefore always give preference to pale shades of color, which reflect the rays of light, instead of absorbing them. Moreover, rooms with light walls possess the advantage over those with dark ones, of requiring a less amount of expenditure in the way of illumination.
Red and violet produce a bad effect on the flesh color of the skin, in imparting a pale complexion to the individual; they should therefore be avoided; as also orange, which, on account of its intensity, causes weariness to the eyes. The most desirable colors in the decoration of walls are yellow and the pale shades of green and blue.
Yellow produces a pleasing effect to the eye with furniture of mahogany, but generally not so with gilding; bright colors, such as scarlet, flame-color, and bright red, would deprive the mahogany wood of that red cast of color which constitutes its greatest beauty, and would make it resemble oak or walnut. A mild green, however, has been proved to be equally well adapted to mahogany and gilded furniture. It is likewise an excellent color when the amount of light and the effect upon the complexion of individuals in the room are considered. Pale blue seems to form a happy contrast with gilding, but with the natural color of the skin, the contrary is the case, particularly in broad daylight, at which time the latter seems to take on a sort of pale, sickly hue.
White and gray paper-hangings, or those with pale green, blue, and yellow figures, are always pleasing to the eye. When a room is to be adorned with paintings, the walls should present a uniform color, which furthermore ought to be such as will afford the greatest possible contrast with that predominating in the paintings. This, however, is not necessary in case the walls are of a gray color. White walls with dark figures, however soft they may be, should not be adorned with paintings. In general the following colors are in accordance with good taste: First: those with bright designs in normal or mixed gray upon white ground, or the reverse. As small figures produce but a feeble impression, at least in large rooms, they should have the same surface, or nearly so, as the ground. Secondly: those with two or more shades of one and the same or an adjacent scale of color, providing they have been chosen according to the law of the contrast of colors.
Chevreul, a Frenchman, who has had frequent opportunities of observing the very numerous and strongly contrasting colors that are required in the royal manufactories of tapestry in Paris, recommends, for wall-paper of a yellow shade, borders of yellow, violet, and blue, in connection with white; for green, red of all hues. Designs of a golden yellow color upon scarlet ground, and even figures in gold, look also very handsome upon green tapestry. For walls of a bluish shade, orange and yellow should be selected; gilding is also very conformable to good taste. Yellow and gold mutually intensify one another. For white and gray paper-hangings, borders of nearly all colors may be chosen; too great a contrast, however, ought to be avoided. Bright shades of blue, violet, red, and green, especially, produce a well-marked effect as regards harmony, when in combination with light ground. Gold produces a pleasing effect with white and grayish white; as also with hues of gray, several tones higher than the original color. Chevreul subjected designs for borders to a careful study. Ornaments of various colors were cut out and successively placed upon a colored ground. Individuals who were known to be connoisseurs were engaged to pass their judgment thereupon, which was carefully noted down. In what follows, the reader will find a short abstract of Monsieur Chevreul?s numerous observations.
In regard to the effect of ornaments of about eight inches in height, in yellow, orange, and gold, upon grounds of various colors, Chevreul says, that in placing ornaments of a yellow and orange shade upon a black and white ground, it was observed that they appeared more intense upon the former than upon the latter. This fact is to be attributed to the circumstance that black does not reflect the rays of light, which white does. In selecting less extreme hues of the same scale of colors, and placing them upon white and black grounds as before, it was found that they reciprocally embellished and purified each other. The ground color black tended to make the ornamental red appear more vivid. The brilliancy of this red is in fact very remarkable; it imparts a golden lustre to the yellow. White heightens the tone of any color which is brought into contact with it; black, on the contrary, tends to tone them down. It is undoubtedly true that gilded ornaments look more handsome in contact with black than with white, but yet the gold color loses rather than gains. Black does not beautify a pure gold color as it does an imitation, and in this sense one may truly affirm that all is not gold that glitters.
Yellow is rendered considerably brighter upon a crimson red ground; colored objects, therefore, become more distinct, and do not have so great a tendency to take on a gray tint as when placed upon white. If the red is of a much darker shade than the color of the ornamental objects, it reduces their tone, in that it gives rise to the complementary color, green. The knowledge of this fact is so far of importance; namely, in that it shows that red, though apparently a less favorable color for ornamental objects than others, may nevertheless produce a pleasing effect to the eye, as it itself is modified and rendered more bright. Both red and black tone down ornamental colors, nevertheless they exhibit a striking difference in their effects. The ornamental objects acquire a greenish hue when placed upon a red ground, while upon black they take on an orange tint. Gold blends with red, in that it loses its orange tinge. For this reason, gilded decorations should never be used upon walls of a red, particularly of a bright red shade of color. As to the red, the complementary color of green, it is rendered more violet and reddish. Yellow and orange lose a good deal of their purity upon orange, the complementary color of blue, even if the latter is of a much deeper shade. They appear bluish or greenish. Gold in contact with orange is rendered white, while the orange inclines toward a red shade. Ornamental objects of a yellow color, when placed upon paper colored with yellow chromate of lead of a more brilliant shade, acquire a considerably paler hue, for the reason that the complementary color, violet, is produced. When compared with those in contact with white, they appear gray. Metallic gold, in contact with paper colored with chromate of lead, is less conformable to good taste; it may, however, under certain cases be justly recommended. Very nearly all ornamental colors take on a darker hue upon a pale green ground the complementary color of red than upon red or even white they are blended with red; not however with the bright red that a black ground produces, but rather with very nearly a brick-red color. Green and gold produce a most pleasing effect to the eye; the green seems to give intensity to the gold; it acquires a more vivid hue, while the shade of the green itself is heightened in tone.
For decorators and manufacturers of paper-hangings, the investigations in regard to the effect produced by a red and green ground are in so far of interest as they show how carefully the selection of the various colors must be considered. They explain why the latter prefers dark red to green for his imitation gold while, for gold bronzes, the decorator selects a green wall-paper instead of a red one. For blue, the law of the theory of colors holds equally good. The ornamental colors, provided their shade be complementary to that of the ground, gain in force, and this effect, indeed, cancels the slight difference of the greater lustre produced by red. The ornamental colors appear less vivid upon red than upon blue. Since blue inclines less to violet, when in contact with gold, than when in contact with red, gold borders produce a more favorable impression than red-colored ones. Violet produces a happy contrast with both red and gold; they acquire a greenish yellow tone. They appear, however, less olive-green, and more brilliant upon violet than upon white, and less green than upon red. Gold heightens the color of the ground, which appears more blue or less red.
Though gold always heightens the color it is brought in contact with, it by no means always affects its own shades of color unfavorably. This fact is well deserving attention. Orange, for instance, though as suming a red hue by the side of metallic gold, appears considerably brighter than if brought in contact with mere gold imitations. And, finally, gold, because of its color inclining to orange, which is the complementary color of blue, imparts a bluish tint to the adjacent shades.